For his first collaboration with another brand, New York swimwear designer George Sotelo of Thorsun scored the crème de la crème: Charvet, perhaps the world’s most famous and storied maker of high-end shirts and ties, and a French national treasure that has occupied the same corner of Place Vendôme since 1838.
Their first effort is a capsule collection of swim trunks in four archival Charvet neckwear prints for spring 2020, which are to be unveiled to the trade in Paris on June 24 and 25.
The project represents a leap into a new luxury strata for Sotelo, who founded his brand in 2014, and a carefully considered step back into resort wear for siblings Jean-Claude and Anne-Marie Colban, keepers of Charvet’s luxury legacy.
Sotelo first met the Colbans 15 years ago, when he treated himself to a custom shirt. He became hooked, and a friendship blossomed. Then two years ago, Jean-Claude shared an article from Vanity Fair in the Twenties about businessmen who morphed into “peacocks in the sand,” donning flamboyantly printed Charvet robes in Palm Beach. Could a new era of seaside boldness be at hand?
The Colbans agreed to do something together — on their perfectionist terms, an experience Sotelo relished as a rich learning experience. “We really took the time to make sure every detail is perfect, down to every stitch,” he said. “It’s a rugged short, but it feels luxurious.”
Accustomed to the best silks and cottons, the Colbans first balked at high-performance technical fabrics, until Sotelo found one made in France with a cotton-like hand and an ability to dry in seven minutes. The partners adjusted Thorsun’s Titan fit model with deeper pockets and other ergonomic considerations, also incorporating silk knots, the signature Charvet cuff link, to punctuate the chartreuse waist cords. Sotelo calls the designs “more grown-up” versions of Thorsun.
“This has been an enjoyable process throughout, from the dive into our archives to the search for the right fabric, printing technique and details, and we took our time to do it exactly how we all felt was right,” said Jean-Claude Colban, noting that “some of today’s Paris customers who love our printed patterns have been repeatedly asking us to develop swimwear in the same spirit.”
In fact, Colban said Charvet’s oeuvre adapted easily to Thorsun’s. “It seems swim trunks and neck pieces have a lot in common, in particular the repetition of the patterns on a small piece of fabric and the status of focal adornment,” he said. “Altogether, it has been very interesting to see how patterns and color combinations evocative of an elegant dress code remain valid in such a casual context.”
The Charvet/Thorson swim shorts, made in the U.S. from French fabric, are to retail for $395 — versus $275 for Thorsun’s existing models. Sotelo expects the venture will help each party widen its base of wholesale accounts. Shared ones already include Bergdorf Goodman and Mr Porter.